There really is a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow! A variety of vegetables is an easy way to ensure you get the vitamins and minerals you need – and it makes your diet more interesting!
The colors of the rainbow are ROYGBIV — Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Indigo, and Violet!
Eating a rainbow of foods is another way to approach healthy choices. Each color of produce provides different nutrients that contribute to good health.
Focusing on a colorful plate is also a way to make your meal fun and interesting and help encourage more vegetables and fruit in your diet. And we all need more of those! According to a 2015 Centers for Disease Control study, only about 1 in 10 people get the recommended serving of 5-9 fruits and vegetables.
In addition to the nutritional benefits, eating more vegetables and fruit as part of an overall healthy diet contributes to a reduced risk of chronic diseases. And if that isn’t enough, ChooseMyPlate.gov points out that “Eating foods such as vegetables that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake.”
The point is — there is no downside to increasing our intake of fruits and vegetables!
So, let’s explore that rainbow.
Lycopene or anthocyanins, the natural plant pigments in red fruits and vegetables, act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage and are linked with heart health. Lycopene in some fruits and vegetables may also reduce the risk of several types of cancer.
These Reds are Hot!
- Pomegranate – buy the seeds (or arils) in your produce section and add to a salad
- Red Cabbage – this versatile veggie is great as part of a dish. For instance, try this Rice Bowl with Cabbage and Baked Tofu – it’s got the added red goodness of peppers.
- Pink Grapefruit – bet you didn’t know grapefruit could be a dessert! This Grapefruit with Pistachios sounds amazing, and if you’re concerned about sugar, there are now stevia brown sugars and other natural substitutions.
ORANGE & YELLOW
The pigments that give orange and yellow their power are called carotenoids. These handy pigments have been shown to be helpful in reducing risk of cancer, heart disease, and improving immune system function. They may also be good for your heart.
One carotenoid, Beta-carotene, is converted to Vitamin A which is helpful for healthy mucus membranes and eyes. You’ll find it in vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots. And don’t forget the Vitamin C and folate benefits of citrus.
Add a Little Sunshine!
- Sweet Corn – corn is not just for eating on-the-cob. Have fun with it like in this Nachos with Fresh Corn Salsa!
- Apricots – this fuzzy fruit is more versatile than you might think. Rachel Rae even used it in one of her 30 Minute Meals – Apricot Chicken.
- Pineapple – as spring and summer approach and the BBQ comes out, consider Grilled Pineapple.
There is so much to say for the greens! In this case, it’s the pigment chlorophyll that gives it its color. Within your greens, it’s also good to get a variety as they have a wide variety of benefits.
According to a publication by the North Dakota State University Extension Service, “some members of the green group, including spinach and other dark leafy greens, green peppers, peas, cucumber and celery, contain lutein. Lutein works with another chemical, zeaxanthin, found in corn, red peppers, oranges, grapes and egg yolks to help keep eyes healthy.”
The same publication also shares the cancer-protection benefits of “indoles” in broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Plus, it explains how leafy greens are excellent sources of folate.
Go for Green!
- Kale – this one’s no-fuss to add to your diet. Chop some up and add it to your brothy soup for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Or add it to your smoothie; you’ll see the flecks but think of them as Leprechaun Luck, and it won’t change the taste.
- Kiwi – don’t shy away from this brown fuzzy fruit, the vibrant green insides will soon win you over. Our favorite way to eat kiwi is as a frozen treat in these Kiwi Paradise Coolers!
- Asparagus – asparagus is great on its own (go ahead, skip the sauce), but it’s even better as part of a dish like this easy clean-up Foil Baked Fish with Lemon & Asparagus.
BLUE, INDIGO, and VIOLET
These cool-colored fruits have something in common with their red-hot friends – anthocyanins. Those antioxidants can’t be beat for protecting cells from damage, which contributes to reduced risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Plus, they can help with memory function and healthy aging.
The Coolest Kids Around
- Eggplant – this one is good with Parmesan, but it’s also a creative option for other dishes. Cut the carbs from your next lasagna by using eggplant and zucchini in place of noodles.
- Purple Grapes – so many varieties to choose from for easy snacking! Visit your local farmer’s market and look for some non-standard options, even their names sound exciting – Flame Seedless, Black Beauty, Ribier!
- Prunes – Don’t be afraid of prunes – the title of this article says it all: The Misunderstood Prune. Don’t be afraid to give these sweet and savory options a try.
Poor white, somehow it was left out of ROY G BIV, but it really contains all the colors of the spectrum. So, don’t discount the importance of white fruits and vegetables.
The anthoxanthins in white produce may contain health-promoting chemicals that may help lower blood pressure and reduce risk of some cancers and heart disease. And some members of the white group are good sources of potassium.
Enjoy the Lightness
- Garlic – it’s not just for recipes! Roasted garlic is a delightful way to top toast or crackers at your next buffet! It’s a great addition with some goat cheese or brie, and herbs make it even better. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to roast a head of garlic, even without a special pan.
- Jicama – be adventurous and try this root vegetable! A fresh take on jicama is this Jicama and Watermelon Salad.
- Banana – go ahead and top your morning cereal. Or, try a different breakfast with these Two-Ingredient Banana Pancakes! They are deceptively easy and taste amazing!
What’s your pot of gold?
No matter what health benefits you’re looking for, eating that rainbow will lead to your pot of gold. And if you’re not sure where to start, check out these ideas!
Fruits & Veggies More Matters (a partnership of the Produce for Better Health Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.)